Review by ffmasterjose

Reviewed: 03/31/08

Through the Looking Glass

Not very often does a sequel transcend it's predecessors so extravagantly to the point where the originals are considered inferior and outdated, even raising the bar so high to the standards of the sequel itself. Indeed, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is just as good, if not undisputedly superior to the original Super Smash Bros. as well as Super Smash Bros. Melee. I was personally dumbfounded by just how many different groups of gamers it appeals to, as I am sure many others are or will be. On the outside it may look like a polished up Melee 2.0 coupled with a flood of fan service. But those who make judgments such as that will sorely miss out on what is simply put, an outstanding gaming experience.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl. does not stray too far from its roots in Super Smash Bros. or Super Smash Bros. Melee, which makes sense - it would not be quite the same if everything was completely overhauled. Up to four fighters can participate in a match, you still have the option to partake in team battles, free-for-alls, what have you. With Brawl you have the unique ability to play with either your beloved Gamecube controller, the Classic Controller, the Wii Remote coupled with the Nunchuck, or just simply utilize the Wii Remote on its side. All four methods function properly and feel balanced - there is not any "correct" way to play the game nor does any method suffer from any kind of severe handicap compared to all of the others. The computer intelligence has improved significantly, you may actually want to spend more time playing against the computer than with your friends strictly because of the challenge it presents. While this is not saying you will not be seeing the computer foolishly self-destructing or botching a very simple recover opportunity, you can expect quite a few surprises while you are playing, and may even find yourself turning down the CPU AI a couple of notches - but there is no shame in this. Practice makes perfect, and playing against the computer will certainly keep you sharp.

There are numerous new as well as returning features found in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Break the Targets is back, though instead of it being unique for each character there are five different levels of difficulty for everyone. Home-Run contests, Event mode battles, and various other side functions are also present in Brawl, and even some content can only be unlocked by completing tasks relating to these special modes. The various Bonuses given after matches in Classic mode are sadly no longer present, but now virtually everything you would want to know about your game is recorded and can be viewed at anytime. Including how many total knockouts you have dished out over the course of your battling, who is the most and least selected character, how many stock matches you have held, et cetera. I am deeply impressed and applaud Nintendo for including such a rare but interesting feature.

A much anticipated and desired feature finally makes its triumphant appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl - the ability to play online. This is something fans of the series have wanted for quite some time, and in this day and age where multiplayer gaming is practically a staple in video games it would be foolhardy (to say the least) to simply not include online play. Now you can team up with another anonymous partner and take on two other battlers from all around the world. Unlike in other online services such as Microsoft's Xbox Live there is no voice chat system in place, nor are there any sort of leaderboards in place. While this may be seen as a bold and unintelligent move by Nintendo when you think about what type of image they are trying to convey, it makes perfect sense. Brawl and the Wii itself are all about having fun in large numbers, with an emphasis on friendly competition. The online service itself is all done through special Friend Codes that one acquires while playing their copy of Brawl and a Friend Roster that can store up to 64 different buddies. If playing with anyone is not quite your thing you are more than encouraged to tag up with your friends. You actually have more control over the battle options if you do this. If you play "With Anyone" you are not able to control items and are restricted to two minute bouts per game. Also in Brawl comes the option to spectate online matches. This involves viewing fights already previously recorded and possibly placing coin bets on who will be the victor of each fight. This is a fairly intriguing feature that not only allows the player to earn (but also lose) coins but it gives you the opportunity to see what other players do, and learn what works and what does not work. There is some lag present because of how Nintendo set up the WFC system in this game, but most of the time it will not be grudgingly slow or to the point where you want to never play another match online ever again.

Something that is new in this game comes in the form of the Final Smashes. These are basically super moves that each character has that serves to aid them in the midst of battle. Some Final Smash moves like Fox and his Landmaster serve to decimate the other opponents in a stylized manner. But not all of them exist just for blowing away the competition. For example, Peach dishes out some damage, puts her foes to sleep and has the chance to pick up several healing items before they wake up. Most of them require some effort on the part of the user, by either controlling where your character moves in for the kill or pointing the missile launcher in the right direction as you lay down a heavy assault from the ladder of a helicopter. All of them serve a special purpose, but most of them are not overpowered and can be dodged with enough skill. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. That is certainly the case with Final Smashes.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl does not really have much for a story, much like with the case of its predecessors. The only thing that really comes close is the new Subspace Emissary mode, which replaces Melee's Adventure Mode. This has you taking control of several different characters in diverse regions of the land, fighting against the likes of Bowser, King Dedede, and a slew of non-playable characters. Subspace Emissary is not just a throwaway mode that was put in for the sake of completion. By completing it you can unlock the game's hidden characters, as well as earn special Trophies and Stickers. Not to mention every cut scene looks great, and is often humorous. You will feel a magnificent sense of accomplishment after you finally achieve one-hundred percent completion. But other than the Subspace Emissary mode, there is not some overarching deeper plot element or anything. The game is all about having simple, unabridged fun. And that is precisely what it delivers.

The graphics and sound in Super Smash Bros. Brawl are nothing more than exceptional. Each character design looks acutely accurate and finely polished. Everything looks breathtaking and the Wii itself is pushed to levels I have not yet encountered while playing other games. Not only will you be dishing out damage, but you will often find yourself doing it in style. The soundtrack features tunes unique to Brawl as well as returning ones from the original and Melee. There are also new tracks that each represent a specific game series, such as exclusive music from Metal Gear Solid 4 that is present in this game. The music for each specific level also fits extraordinary well with its paired stage and really serves to pull you into what is going on. There are countless tracks to unlock in the game and they can be earned by collecting the various CDs that randomly appear during battles.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is all about replay value. There is so much content to unlock it is ridiculous at times. There are countless Trophies, Stickers and CDs to collect. Not to mention the various special modes that you are constantly encouraged to play and improve your skills in each. You should also play with each and every character available. All of them are different from one another and play their own certain way. Initially I was extremely skeptical about playing as the Pokemon Trainer but after I gave him some time I found that switching between his three Pokemon is surprisingly seamless and effective, and I am sure this will be the case with many others - not only just the Pokemon Trainer but the other new characters and returning favorites that have experienced some change. With the ability to take your game online you will not tire of brawling for a long time to come. If online play is not your thing, or you simply lack the capabilities to take the fights online there is more than enough to divulge in offline - be it the 40+ Event modes, countless Challenges, and just the pure entertainment that comes with taking on your other friends or the computer opponents. I can easily see myself playing this game long after the Wii has had its time in the sun.

I strongly encourage Wii owners to pick this game up. For those that feel the Wii lacks true "groundbreaking" games that deliver Brawl will fill that niche'. If you are a fan of the series or you enjoyed any of the other two games before it you should absolutely pick this game up. It is pure, harmless entertainment with familiar faces from your beloved Nintendo game series, as well as third party series such as Metal Gear and Sonic the Hedgehog. Even if you are completely unfamiliar with anything related to the series itself it is still a great purchase if you own a Wii. It is not only the best entry in the Super Smash Bros. series but also one of the best Wii titles I have played to date, and a serious contender for the 2008 Game of the Year.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (US, 03/09/08)

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